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Coalition Launches 2016 Immigrant Opportunity Agenda for New York City, Convenes Electeds and Advocates to Discuss Opportunities and Challenges for Immigrants


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage; New York Immigration Coalition,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York   (Wednesday, February 10, 2016)

Coalition Launches 2016 Immigrant Opportunity Agenda for New York City, Convenes Electeds and Advocates to Discuss Opportunities and Challenges for Immigrants

 Advocates Call for Support for City Resources for Vital Immigrant Services, Voter Registration, Immigrant Workers, and Access to Quality Healthcare

(New York, NY) On Wednesday morning at New York Law School, New York’s top elected officials - including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Vanessa Gibson, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks, and Health Department Deputy Commissioner for Prevention and Primary Care Dr. Sonia Angell - joined the New York Immigration Coalition and its members at a policy and legislative breakfast to discuss the needs of New York City’s immigrant communities and unveil NYIC’s 2016 “Immigrant Opportunity Agenda.” Top priorities in this year’s agenda include:

  • Education: Improving cultural competency of New York City’s public schools.
  • Legal Services: Ensuring access to affordable, reliable legal services to immigrants.
  • Worker Rights: Protecting all low wage workers who contribute to New York City’s economy and social fabric.
  • Civic Engagement: Modernizing New York City’s electoral and voter registration processes to promote inclusive civic engagement.
  • Capacity Building: Supporting small, immigrant-serving organizations by promoting equity, increasing capacity, and ensuring financial stability.
  • Health Care: Ensuring that New York City’s health care system provides culturally competent, accessible and affordable care
  • Adult Literacy: Investing in adult literacy programming through community-based organizations, CUNY, and the public libraries.

To view the program agenda from today's breakfast, click here and to view the 2016 Immigrant Opportunity Agenda and issue backgrounders, click here

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition welcomed participants, saying, “Immigrant New Yorkers account for more than one-third of the city’s residents and the vast majority of New Yorkers are either immigrants or their children, demonstrating by no small measure that immigrant-friendly policies benefit all New Yorkers. With this year’s agenda – ensuring critical services for immigrants, empowering them civically, protecting the rights of low wage workers, providing affordable health care for all, improving cultural competency in New York’s public schools, investing in adult literacy programming, and supporting capacity building for immigrant-servicing organizations - we aim to work side-by-side with our City’s leaders to make these key needs a reality.”

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James provided opening remarks, saying, “New York was built by the hard work and toil of immigrants, and we have a responsibility to protect and uplift the people who come to our City in hopes of a better life. Protecting immigrant communities and ensuring they are treated fairly has long been a top priority and I look forward to continuing this work with NYIC to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of their place of birth, have equal opportunities.”

She was followed by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, who said in his Keynote, “New York City is the immigrant capital of the world, but it’s also no secret that immigrants who call the five boroughs home face unique challenges. As the New York Immigration Coalition’s agenda demonstrates, these hurdles run the gamut, from access to health care and legal assistance, to ensuring that the right to vote is protected in all our communities. As Comptroller, it’s my job to make sure that every New Yorker has a fair and fighting chance to succeed, no matter where they come from, which is why I am proud to support the Coalition’s work to engage and empower all New Yorkers.”

[Left] Public Advocate Letitia James gives opening remarks at NYIC's 2016 City Legislative and Policy Breakfast. [Right] NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer gives the Keynote at the NYIC's 2016 City Legislative and Policy Breakfast.

On four panels, advocates and elected officials discussed the following:

  • Expanding Health Access for Immigrant New Yorkers. A discussion of important city-level immigrant health initiatives currently in planning or underway in New York, including: Direct Access, a pilot program designed to provide comprehensive access and care coordination for city residents who are not eligible for other publicly-financed programs due to their immigration status; Access Health NYC, an initiative to build the capacity of community-based organizations to provide outreach, education, and technical assistance on access to health care for low-income, immigrant, and other vulnerable populations in New York City; coordination among the city’s many new, exciting immigrant health initiatives and other efforts to expand access to care for all city residents.
  • Legal Rights & Legal Service in New York City. A discussion on the steps that have been taken, future plans, and the obstacles that remain to ensure that New York’s immigrants are able to assert their legal rights without fear, and protect themselves and their families from deportation.
  • Engaging Immigrant New Yorkers. A discussion on several important initiatives that are being undertaken by the NYIC, organizers, and allies in elected office to expand enfranchisement to city residents, protect voters from discrimination at the polls, equalize representation in the city’s Board of Elections, and expand Student Voter Registration Day.
  • Adult Learning and Education. A discussion on how to achieve a thriving, equitable, and community-based ESOL and adult education system. Without such a system, tens of thousands of New Yorkers each year continue to be unable to access workforce training programs, to earn the skills to better support their children in school, or to communicate with doctors and law enforcement should they have an emergency.

Expressing the need to prioritize adult education in New York City, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca said on the panel on education and literacy, “I applaud the work that City leaders and advocates here today are doing to address one of the most critical initiatives that can further unlock the life potential of thousands of our neighbors: literacy for all New Yorkers. It is not enough to effectively launch our nationally revered Universal Prekindergarten Program, we must also invest in the education of our immigrant and non-English speaking parents in order to ensure that they take advantage of workforce training programs, engage in community participatory democracy projects like Participatory Budgeting and participate in their child's educational experience. We must do better for all our families. I encourage everyone to engage now on this issue.”

Discussing health access for immigrant New Yorkers, New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson said, “Too often those most in need of services are also the most disenfranchised. Language barriers, monetary barriers, and sometimes even transportation barriers prevent our most vulnerable individuals and families from much needed healthcare. Recognizing the very real need of our constituents, the City Council created an initiative - Access Health NYC - to fund the work of local CBOs already working within the community who can best connect residents with health insurance, education, and care. I am proud to have the opportunity to increase access to health insurance and education within my district and thank NYIC for their dedication to the health and well-being of the immigrant community.”

[Left] Council Member Carlos Menchaca addresses New York immigrants adult education needs. [Right] Council Member Vanessa Gibson discusses healthcare for immigrant New Yorkers.

In his remarks on the panel on legal services, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks said, “New York has always been a city of immigrants, and it’s vital that we enable the newest New Yorkers to become secure and welcome participants in our city. Through the Office of Civil Justice, HRA helps to ensure that immigrants across the City can receive the legal assistance they need, to help them secure legal status, assist survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking to rebuild their lives, unite families or ensure unaccompanied minors receive care, ensure that immigrant workers receive the full protection of the law, and much more.”


"All New Yorkers, regardless of documentation status, deserve the right to access the health care they need, yet many face substantial barriers. The city’s Direct Access program will help encourage the use of primary and preventive care for those who aren't eligible for insurance because of their immigration status,” said Health Department Deputy Commissioner for Prevention and Primary Care Dr. Sonia Angellwho spoke on the health panel at the event. “By providing coordinated access to primary care we will improve the lives of those left behind by the Affordable Care Act."

[Left] Human Resources Administration Commissioner Banks sits on the legal services panel at NYIC's Legislative and Policy Breakfast. [Right] Health Department Deputy Commissioner for Prevention and Primary Care Dr. Sonia Angell speaks on the health panel this morning.

In support for NYIC’s 2016 agenda, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Agarwal stated, “The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is committed to enhancing the economic, civic, and social integration of immigrant New Yorkers and facilitating access to justice for all New Yorkers. In 2016, MOIA will begin to provide legal services via ActionNYC, a community-based initiative that will provide free and safe immigration legal help for all New Yorkers, and will advance priority immigrant integration issues like healthcare alongside its sister agencies. We are invigorated by NYIC and its member organizations’ Immigrant Opportunity Agenda as it provides an important assessment of the inequities facing immigrant New Yorkers and reinforces the significance of programs and policies that serve immigrants in New York City.”

Attending the Legislative Breakfast, Sudha Acharya, executive director of South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) said, "We welcome a key initiative, Access Health NYC. However, to ensure that culturally competent, accessible and affordable care is available to all immigrants living in New York City, it is crucial that the City Council increases funding for Access Health NYC from $1 million to $5 million and that it administers it through a transparent, accessible request for proposal (RFP) process."

Rounding out the NYIC’s legislative breakfast on the final panel of the morning on adult literacy, Kevin Douglas, Co-Director of Policy & Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH) said, “Adult literacy programs are an essential component in building a City that rewards the hard work of immigrants seeking to build better lives for themselves and their families. UNH is proud to partner with the New York Immigration Coalition in launching their 2016 NYC Immigrant Opportunities Agenda, which would create access to adult literacy programs for over 13,000 New Yorkers. Along with proposals to improve access to health care, expand legal services, and better engage immigrants in the civic life of the City, the NYIC agenda is strong, and one that we hope the Mayor and City Council will work to enact.”

The "Engaging Immigrant New Yorker" panel at today's City Legislative & Policy Breakfast. [Left to Right] Murad Awawdeh, senior manager of political engagement at NYIC; James Hong, director of civic engagement, Minkwon Center for Community Action; Monica Grant, organizer at The Black Institute; Aber Kawas, youth organizer at Arab American Association of NY; and Danielle Guindo, vice president of programs adn policy at Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.

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The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.




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